I am a native of New York City, with a BA in history from Middlebury College (and a minor in oceanography). I live in Brooklyn, NY, with my family.
I became a writer the old-fashioned way. In 1985, I embarked on a three month trip to India and Nepal; when I returned to the US, I intended to apply to architecture school, or maybe law school. Only, I didn’t return. My three-month trip extended into a two year journey that took me around the world. Working as a fisherman in Australia, an English teacher and actor in Japan, and as a janitor in Paris, I wrote in journals as I went. It was this experience of talking to a wide range of people and recording my observations on a daily basis that led me to pursue a writing career once I returned to the States.
In 1988, I joined New York magazine as as a fact-checker. While there, I wrote many short articles and freelanced on the side, producing stories like “Slave,” a New Yorker piece about an irascible soup maven (later made famous by Seinfeld’s “Soup Nazi”). I moved to BusinessMonth, where I profiled business leaders, to Time, where I covered national affairs and business, and to People, where I wrote about human interest and true-crime stories. In 2001, I joined Tina Brown’s Talk magazine, where my story “Should Johnny Paul Penry Die?” — about the debate over executing mentally-retarded criminals — was anthologized in The Best American Crime Writing. In 2002 my article “Investigating ImClone” was published in Vanity Fair and anthologized in Best Business Crime Writing.
By this point I was ready to write books, and in 2003 I co-wrote Forewarned — about terrorism and security in the post-9/11 world – with Michael Cherkasky (then-CEO of Kroll, now CEO of Altegrity, and one of the best men I’ve ever met).
In 2004, I expanded my article about ImClone into The Cell Game, a book about the intersection of biotech, cancer research, finance, white collar crime, and celebrity. (The Cell Game was optioned for a movie that may yet make its way to the silver screen.)
In January, 2004, when Julia Child was 91 years old, I helped her write the memoir she had been talking about since 1969. She wanted to focus on her “favorite” period of life: 1948-1954, when her husband, Paul, took Julia to Paris and Marseille, where she experienced “a flowering of the soul” and discovered herself in French cooking. We worked together for eight months, when, two days before her 92d birthday, she died in her sleep. I spent another year finishing her memoir. I was greatly aided by the letters that Julia and her husband, Paul Child, wrote to my grandparents, Fredericka and Charles Child, detailing their lives in France. (Paul was Charlie’s twin brother.) I was fortunate to work with Judith Jones, Julia’s editor at Knopf, who had championed Julia’s first cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, published in 1961. Working with a legend like Judith was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and I am lucky to call her a friend. In 2006, Knopf published My Life in France, and it reached the #1 spot on the New York Times best-seller list. I only wish Julia could have been here to witness her latest success.
In 2009, Nora Ephron used our book as inspiration for half of the film “Julie & Julia,” which she wrote and directed, and which starred Meryl Streep as Julia and Stanley Tucci as Paul Child.
For the next two books I went in a different direction, and wrote The Ripple Effect: the Fate of Fresh Water in the Twenty-First Century, published by Scribner in 2011, and Hydrofracking: What Everyone Needs to Know, published by Oxford University Press in 2013.
I am currently at work on a new book about Julia Child in the 1970s, with the working title The French Chef in America, to be published by Knopf in the Spring of 2016